Thuney, a 2016 third-round draft choice out of NC State, has been the definition of a plug-and-play starter, coming off the field for just four snaps as a rookie and only five last year, which was usually because the game was in hand and it was a chance to get his backup some work.
But such a workload hasn’t come without a personal toll.
While the affable Thuney has been present at the Patriots’ voluntary offseason program this year, his participation has been limited as he prepares for upcoming foot surgery, according to those familiar with his situation. The procedure that Thuney is scheduled to undergo on his foot isn’t considered anything that should threaten his availability for the 2018 season, but naturally will keep him off the field for upcoming organized team activities.
Thus, it highlights the importance for the team to have quality depth in case things take an unexpected turn.
Along those lines, here are some of the factors in play:
While the Patriots drafted Isaiah Wynn (No. 23 overall) in hopes of him becoming their long-term left tackle, he could also factor into the mix at guard if needed. Some NFL teams viewed him more as a guard than tackle because of his height (6-foot-2⅜). If Wynn ultimately takes snaps at left guard, it highlights the importance of players such as Trent Brown, LaAdrian Waddle, Cole Croston and Matt Tobin as possible options at left tackle.
Last season, if one of the team’s top guards would have missed time, 2016 sixth-round pick Ted Karras would have been the top in-house option to fill in. Karras started the first two games of his career at right guard as a rookie and added a start at center last season. He’s still on the roster.
The free-agent signing of Luke Bowanko (40 games played, 15 starts) adds a layer of experienced depth that could be important. A 2014 sixth-round pick of the Jaguars, the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Bowanko worked at all five spots on the line in practice during his time in Jacksonville but has mostly been a center/guard. He’s the type of smart, light-on-his-feet offensive lineman that fits the Patriots' system.
Croston, a 2017 undrafted free agent from Iowa, took snaps at tackle and guard last year. So he would likely still be in the conversation at guard in the event help was needed.
Jason King, an undrafted free agent from Purdue who spent parts of last season on the Patriots’ practice squad, is also in the developmental pipeline.